This is beautiful:

"NPR had an interview with one of those people who think we should not send people into space, but rely entirely on robots. As I pulled into the parking lot at the mall he casually asked "what can a man do on Mars that a robot cannot?"

PLANT A FUCKING FLAG ON THE PLANET, I shouted at the radio. Pardon my language. But. On a day when seven brave people died while fulfilling their brightest ambitions, this was the wrong day to suggest we all stay tethered to the dirt until the sun grows cold. Are we less than the men who left safe harbors and shouldered through cold oceans? After all, they sailed into the void; we can look up at the night sky and point at where we want to go. There: that bright white orb. We're going. There: that red coal burning on the horizon. We're going. And we're not sending smart toys on our behalf - we're sending human beings, and one of them will put his boot on the sand and bring the number of worlds we've visited to three. And when he plants the flag he will use flesh and sinew and blood and bone to drive it into the ground. His heartbeat will hammer in his ears; his mind will spin a kaleidoscopic medley of all the things he'd thought he'd think at this moment, and he'll grin: I had it wrong. I had no idea what it would truly be like. He'd imagined this moment as oddly private; he'd thought of himself, the red land, the flag in his hand, and he heard music, as though the moment would be fully scored when it happened. But there isn't any music; there's the sound of his breath and the thrum of his pulse. It seems like everyone who ever lived is standing behind him at the other end of a vast dark auditorium, waiting for the flag to stand on the ground of Mars. Then he will say something. He might stumble on a word or two, because he's only human.

But look what humans have done. Again. "

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6 Responses:

  1. naturalborn says:

    "There, I've planted the fucking flag, now please help me get home alive."

  2. passivemile says:

    i distinctly remember swinging at night on the playground. my sneakers would point right at the stars. i only displaced maybe eight feet but it felt as though i was on my way. there was that gush in my stomach, the change of momentum, but to me it was really something else--some unknowing, some push towards that. i can only equate it one thing: falling in love, and that's an amazing feeling. there is some definite pull towards the outer, towards what's above, and what covers us.

    these 'boys' died for that feeling, died in that feeling, and i'm not sure i'd trade, but i'd sure as hell think very hard about it.

    it probably won't be me planting that flag, but i'll understand.

  3. mactavish says:

    I love Lileks for many, many reasons, largely because he loves his dog.

  4. m4dh4tt3r says:

    I had a conversation with a friend over beer last night about Columbia. We both agreed that we would die for the opportunity and experiences the astronauts had. Even knowing for certain that at the end of your trip you were going to die. I'd go in a heartbeat.

  5. jcurious says:

    I don't see the human on mars thing happening for several generations... I mean think about it.. when is the last time we stopped on the moon? has the moon all of a sudden become boring? blah...

  6. kalischild says:

    I look forward to a time when the a flag will be planted on another planet by a country/culture/species that has evolved enough to not trash it's own homeworld. When it comes to space, I think we need to be potty-trained before we're allowed into the rest of the house.

    Sorry to be such a pessimist, but the glory of discovery seems to be inevitably followed by the shame of abuse.

    Mankind should not forge forward merely to stay ahead of his mistakes.